Traditional Chinese Medicine to "cure" behavioral problems?

9 year old Thoroughbred mare: generally good attitude and loves her job, but has moments when she gets either nervous or upset/anxious. Triggers are not consistent other than separation from other horses and frantically pacing her stall to go out in the morning.
Chiropractor been out many times. Most recently she was again adjusted and we did acupuncture. It certainly helped in the moment but the horse is still not 100% happy.
We have tried depo earlier in the year when her behavior seemed more hormonal. It didn’t do a whole lot, but it seemed to help some.
She is simply not at peace, and the vet says perhaps she has Liver Yang Rising according to traditional Chinese medicine. She shows most, if not all, symptoms. Herbs are too expensive from the vet.

I was thinking about putting her on red raspberry leaves again (I had her on them a year ago, and maybe they helped??).

I’m also hoping to get some energy/body work done on her, but something in her foundation needs to be solved because she is just not happy.

We have tried accommodating her environment to make her as happy as possible, but to no avail. Sometimes she seems to get better, and then she has anxious outbursts again.

Thoughts?

Have you tested for Lyme?

A friend of mine has her horses on all of these Chinese concoctions, for everything from nervous behavior, to repro issues, to sore backs, necks, etc, to aggressive behavior, etc. I mean it was insane the supplements she was sticking into their feed each day - twice a day. It was expensive as heck, the stuff stunk to high heaven, I had NO idea what any of it was and it didn’t “cure” one single “ailment” any of her horses had. She had a fortune in vet and supplement bills and I guess really and truly believed she was doing the “Right Thing” for her horses. She’s a terrific person, believes in the “holistic approach” but I just don’t know if it should be done on this scale with our animals

Count me as one who doesn’t believe we should be messing with them in this manner. I don’t believe horses were meant to be fed this amount and kind of stuff. They are grazing animals - I think if all else fails, you take them off everything except for “grazing” matter and allow them to get back to basics. I mean heck - check out your tack shops, magazines, Internet bulletin boards, etc. We have been conditioned to believe that IF we are good horses owners and truly care about our horses, here are these 50,267 supplements that we can feed to them for every single thing that might be wrong with them, to make them right once again …

Its insane - its a multi billion dollar industry fueled by our desire to do the “Right Thing” for the animals in our care. I mean heck - years ago - we fed them a good vitamin supplement and that was it. The most “exotic” thing we fed them was Dr Bells Kidney and Blood powder.

I think we simply need to accept that with our animal “partners” some WILL have moments where they:

but has moments when she gets either nervous or upset/anxious. Triggers are not consistent other than separation from other horses and frantically pacing her stall to go out in the morning.

and we cant overmedicate to control, lessen or eliminate those issues that are part of who that horse is. We can try and control the environment as much as we can, but to try and medicate for a behavior that perhaps affects the horse 5-10% of its day is not the right approach to take, IMO …

Good luck with her

Remember SOAP.

Subjective
Objective
Assessment
Plan

Unless you can figure out why the horse is behaving as it is throwing a never ending stream of “nostrums” at it is the equivalent of throwing $100 bills at it. How successful would that be?

So figure out what you’re dealing with. Pain? Subtle lameness? Hoof issues? Genetics? What?

When you have enough facts to do an assessment then you can work up a plan.

Good luck in your effort.

G.

Your horse is anxious and paces her stall. My TB would also exhibit those symptoms without adequate turnout, regular work, and a low-starch diet. For him, it means 24/7 turnout; other horses seem to do fine on less.

Maybe you haven’t described what’s going on comprehensively, but nothing you’ve written would indicate to me the need for chiropractic, acupuncture, or chinese herbs.

I would look first at your mare’s overall care regime – what is she fed (low starch? high starch? how much hay? what kind of calories? and at her turnout and work schedule.

My own TB gets hot on higher starch diets so he gets triple crown senior, which has a very low NSC rating and as much grass hay as he can eat. He gets ridden at least 5/week with lots of long hacks and he lives outside. He went from a horse that cribbed/weaved in the barn and one that was highly reactive under saddle to a horse that is high energy but with focus. He has a very strong work ethic and gets irritable and tense if he’s not in regular work. Even when he was recovering from an injury my vet had me start walking him under saddle as soon as it was feasible because she said he needs a JOB.

My horse does get a magnesium supplement because he is noticeably less reactive on it (he’s very twitchy and doesn’t like to be touched when he’s not on it). I give him regular massages, which help him relax, but mostly he just needs to get out and move.

My horse does suffer from separation anxiety if he is left alone at the barn. Desensitizing him to it by taking his pasture mates away for increasing amounts of time has improved his ability to deal with it considerably.

Maybe your horse just needs to DO more – more work, more things to occupy her brain? A 9 year old TB may well have a lot of energy that needs to be channeled more productively.

(In comparison to my TB, my draft x mare is completely content to hang out in the field with her buddy).

Turnout, full time would be the starting point
If a horse is deficient in Mg, they will be more anxious, and Raspberry leaves are high in Magnesium. In fact, Raspberry leaves are the main ingredient in mare magic
A confined horse can be a stressed horse. Stress causes ulcers and other behavioral issues, besides physical ones (hoof health, digestion )
Thus, first remove the stress instead of looking at all kinds of supplements to treat the results of that stress.

Yes, we have tested for Lyme. She had Lyme previously and we recently retested her and her titer was very low, simply signifying that had had Lyme in the past. The vet was pleased with her result, and no longer concerned with disease.

I appreciate everyone’s opinions. I recognize I didn’t give every detail possible. To respond generally to everyone:
She gets smart carb and smart complete from the mill and about 4-5 flakes of hay per day when she’s in the stall in the evening. She has multiple stall toys I have taught her how to use and she also has a salt block she enjoys. But when it comes to the morning during turnout time, none of that matters. She is in for nothing close to 12 hours and goes out extremely early in the morning and comes in late in the evening. I would keep her out 24/7 but there are no run-in sheds and moving is not a viable option right now. During a nicer part of the year we did have her out 24/7 and simply fed in the field etc.
The horse does need chiropractic adjustments because she builds up significant tension throughout her back and therefore poll. Her pelvis tilts back and to the left because it’s been sitting that way for a long time and the adjustments help to realign it. I can definitely see a difference in her after these adjustments. Physically she gives such a sigh of relief, it’s very clear.
She has sensitivity (body and foot soreness), both being gradually corrected with appropriate training, shoeing and vet care.
I recognize many people use magnesium supplements and I have discussed this at length with my vet.
It is unfortunate, but we have come at this from every possible aspect to attempt to take away the stress. I firmly believe in looking at the root of the problem to solve something and not just treating symptoms but we can find nothing conclusive.
To answer the comment about her potentially needing a job: We have her on a regular training program and we do plenty of engaging flatwork exercises; we work on relaxation and stretching. We also do some jumping. At least a few times a month we have the trainer get on her to do a formal training session.

I may have given the wrong impression in my first post: I am not asking for direction on how to handle the horse. I am happy to listen to other people’s stories, or their thoughts on what could be the root of the problem! I recognize that every horse deserves the right to have their “moments”, but this is clear to us as her handlers that it is a serious discomfort for the animal’s mental well being.

What I am mainly asking for on here is:
-Have any people used traditional medicines or herbs to aid in varying “problems” with horses? If so, what were your observations?

I hope that helps to redirect my purpose in this post.

Yes, I did try chinese herbal medicines on my TB. Didn’t make any difference and it was expensive. More turnout and more work made a bigger difference.

I knew of one gelding who’s owner had him on an unbelievably complicated system of supplement’s and remedies. Horse had multiple skin issues, was hot and spooky. Threw horse out to pasture and quit riding him. All his symptoms went away. New horse that was a dream sweetie pie being broke in by trainer, got pissy after she started riding her. She was terrified riding out and only rode in endless circles with a driving seat. Last I heard she was on horse #4 and still buying lots of supplements.

I think we (some riders / trainers / Horse Owners) are putting too much faith in that Chinese / Japanese / Herbal / Holistic / North American / You-Name-It / etc “supplement”, rather than going to back to good old basic horsemanship, basic horse care and common sense

You just simply need to go back to basics and if you are lucky enough to have an old time horse person in your neck of the woods, bring a coffee and muffins over and sit down and get their take on how they would address this issue. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn, all for the cost of a coffee and a few muffins … :wink:

[QUOTE=TrueColours;7862020]I think we (some riders / trainers / Horse Owners) are putting too much faith in that Chinese / Japanese / Herbal / Holistic / North American / You-Name-It / etc “supplement”, rather than going to back to good old basic horsemanship, basic horse care and common sense

You just simply need to go back to basics and if you are lucky enough to have an old time horse person in your neck of the woods, bring a coffee and muffins over and sit down and get their take on how they would address this issue. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn, all for the cost of a coffee and a few muffins … ;)[/QUOTE]

+1

G.

We have a mare similar at my barn. She is on Regumate and a possible hysterectomy. My gelding is a sensative soul, melts down every time we ride back TO the barn. He is on SmartCalm and it has helped a lot. Then my vet tried an OTC nasel gel called Confidence EQ. The company will send you a free sample. It is a calming pheromone and my boy was like on a total chill pill after we used it but it only lasts 2 hours. My vet was at his clinic when he used it so I sent for a free sample to try it when riding (we event). Just my experience but it wouldn’t hurt to try a free sample.

[QUOTE=TrueColours;7862020]I think we (some riders / trainers / Horse Owners) are putting too much faith in that Chinese / Japanese / Herbal / Holistic / North American / You-Name-It / etc “supplement”, rather than going to back to good old basic horsemanship, basic horse care and common sense

You just simply need to go back to basics and if you are lucky enough to have an old time horse person in your neck of the woods, bring a coffee and muffins over and sit down and get their take on how they would address this issue. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn, all for the cost of a coffee and a few muffins … ;)[/QUOTE]

  • 2! :slight_smile:

I’ve had very good success with several Chinese Herbs on my horses. I’ve used one called Body Sore that has made a marked difference for some (but not all) of my horses at shows. I’ve used one called Cervical Formula for a mare with bursitis in her poll that seemed to help transition her through the stage that it was causing the most discomfort (though I would be the first to say that there was no way to look at that one objectively). I did also put my Berner (dog) with Wobbler’s on the Cervial Forumala too, though, and it’s made a pretty major improvement in his general comfort level. I’ve used one called Stomach Happy that works better on my stress-y gelding than Omeprazole (or any other stomach supplement) during times of stress. In short, I think some Chinese Herbs can work quite well.

But I’m not sure the answer to the issues you mention in your OP are ones that can be addressed by ANY topical additive to feed. Your bodyworker could be right about the Liver thing (I certainly don’t know enough about Chinese medicine to say otherwise), but I guess I would be more curious about WHY she’s out of balance. As others have mentioned, culprits could be turnout or lack thereof, the wrong kind of feed/grain, not enough exercise, the wrong kind of exercise, etc. Or it could just be that she’s that sort of horse. I’ve certainly had more than a few who were wound tight naturally and no amount of supplementation, feed change, or exercise could change that natural (for them) behavior.

Unlike the rest here, in your position I would be open to giving whatever herb your person is suggesting. I would just try to be objective in deciding whether it was impacting the horse. If there was no visible change after one order’s worth I certainly wouldn’t order it again.

The biggest problem with TCVM is finding a practitioner that really understands it and can select the proper herbs, acupuncture points along with suggesting needed husbandry changes to get the desired results. I have seen at least three very clear instances where TCVM has solved issues after owners had already run through all sorts of Western diagnostics and treatments to no avail. One was a chronic colicker, another had chronic diarrhea, and one more had uterine bleeding who belonged to a Western medicine vet that had tried to resolve the issue for a long time and turned to the TCVM vet as a last resort. The herbs completely resolved these horses’ issues. I’ve seen less dramatic results for behavioral issues, but still some improvement in spookiness, anxiety, tension.
That said, it is expensive which makes it not my first go to. Rather when all else has failed… But if you have someone who has a reputation of getting good results, I think it could be worth it. And just like people, as far as acupuncture, some horses react more dramatically than others. Anyway, IMO the idea of getting to the root of issues vs just treating symptoms as they arise does seem logical.
And I have known horses that despite plenty of turnout with buddies and lots of exercise, can still be neurotic. One in particular was way worse on the days he worked tremendously hard. In hindsight, that horse probably had ulcers, but this was before treating for ulcers was so commonplace. Anyway, I would try a ranitidine or omeprazole trial to see if that improves some of the symptoms.

Although I have yet to read the recent posts, thanks to everyone for their stories and opinions.
I failed to mention that the horse also paces the fence line nervously in the field now as well. Even with other horses in the field and in surrounding fields, it doesnt matter.
I will get to reading those other replies later on tonight.

I study yoga and Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine) as a hobby, so I am in no way critical of TCM.

You might want to rule out relatively inexpensive solutions first, such as try 27/7 turnout with a buddy (if at all possible) and/or a magnesuim supplement.

The cheapie $10 mag supplement from TSC has made a tremendous positive difference with my genetically hot, reactive, spooky Arabian.

How much interaction does she get with other horses? I’m sorry if I may have missed this point. My older gelding is a very stressed and nervous horse. He’ll frantically pace if stalled. He used to constantly pace the fenceline. It was very frustrating to watch him so unsettled.

What worked to calm him? 24/7 turnout with a lot of hay and an ancient pony. A pony who is now the “herd leader” - my horse has always been insecure and having a more confident buddy allows him to finally relax.

I understand moving may not be an option, but is there a horse, like my pony, that she may be able to be turned out with?

How are the stalls set up in your barn? Are there bars between the stalls, or is there a solid wall? I would think bars would allow her to see the other horses, which would make her feel less alone.

I have no experience with alternative medicine, but going back to the basics, as others have said, has helped my horse. And saved me a lot of money.

Best of luck to you and your mare, she’s lucky to have an owner who is so committed to her well-being.

Or it could just be that she’s that sort of horse. I’ve certainly had more than a few who were wound tight naturally and no amount of supplementation, feed change, or exercise could change that natural (for them) behavior.

I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility. However, she has not always acted this way.

For at least a month before colder weather hit she was out 24/7 and her general O/C behavior did not change. She obviously didn’t have a chance to pace in the stall, but she still paced the fence line and she was generally still hard to handle if she felt like behaving that way on that particular day.
The problem thus far with getting to the root of the problem is that she is so obscure with her actions, it is hard to give a concrete diagnosis. My western medicine vet gives no diagnosis, just suggests sedatives.